RARELY, IF EVER, has Jrue Holiday looked as worn out as he did yesterday morning when he entered the 76ers' practice facility at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Holiday, the starting point guard entering his third season, wore the usual oversized sweats, his head covered with an off-center baseball cap and hoodie. His worn-out appearance wasn't because of a long workout, though. It was due to the red-eye that Holiday had taken to get back from Los Angeles in preparation for Friday's opening of training camp at Saint Joseph's.

Holiday brightened up enough a few minutes later to give teammate Craig Brackins a chest bump before the two of them, along with Jodie Meeks and Andre Iguodala, departed to get their physicals. Players still can't say more than hi to coaches and front-office types, only allowed contact with the training staff until the ratification of the collective bargaining agreement, which is expected to happen tomorrow.

"I've been waiting for this for so long, I guess just waiting to see where we're at and what we're going to do," said Holiday, who averaged 14 points and 6.5 assists last season. "It's been crazy emotionally just trying to figure out if we were going to have a league. So just to have a league and now the schedule to come out, it's just a weight off your shoulders."

The schedule was indeed released last night and the Sixers will open their season Dec. 26 at Portland.

As Holiday spoke with reporters, coach Doug Collins entered the lobby of PCOM. Though basketball conversation is not allowed, brief greetings are. Collins abided by the rules, giving Holiday a hug and a brief hello, then headed back toward the offices. It was a simple, quick encounter, but spoke volumes as to how much the second-year coach is counting on the 21-year-old.

Though still painfully young, Holiday is mature well beyond his age, the person you trust to give the keys of this organization.

"I'm excited, I'm ready to go, I'm glad to be back," he said. "I love Southern California, but to be here, I feel good."

He wasn't just talking about himself, but about his feelings of the team. Should they sign restricted free agents Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes, the team returns basically the same group that went 38-28 over the final 66 games of last season. Coincidentally, that's how many games are in this year's abbreviated schedule.

Asked if this schedule might benefit the Sixers, Holiday said: "I think it will. Last year we had a coaching change and we started off slow [3-13], and once we got rolling, we got rolling. I think we'll just kind of stay with it. Once you start rolling, you stay rolling."

Though he looked weary from the night of traveling, Holiday assured that he is in fine shape and ready to get at it.

"I'm good," he said. "I really stayed well-conditioned during [the lockout]. I think the difference is, you can be conditioned off the court, but once you start playing, that's the condition you need to be in. The only way to condition for basketball is to actually play basketball."

Starting Friday, that will finally happen.

Sixshots

New CEO Adam Aron announced a reduction in online ticket fees for purchases on Sixers.com. There will be one comprehensive online ticketing fee of 14.25 percent of the face value of the ticket, with a $4 minimum charge. Last season the ticketing fee was never less than $6.50 . . . There was a report that the opening of training camp might be pushed back to Monday, but apparently teams didn't want that and Friday is the day. Camp probably will end on Wednesday, Dec. 14 . . . The Sixers will hold most of their training camp at Saint Joseph's. There might also be some practices held at PCOM or even the Wells Fargo Center.

For more Sixers coverage, read the Daily News' Sixers blog, Sixerville, at www.philly.com/Sixerville.
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